Watch CBS News

Chicago's Root 2 Fruit sows seeds for youth in the community while preventing violence

Sowings seeds to preventing violence is the mission of Root 2 Fruit
Sowings seeds to preventing violence is the mission of Root 2 Fruit 02:18

CHICAGO (CBS) —  With a number of young people growing up in areas where they're surrounded by gun violence, one West Side organization is using its voice to make their community safer.

The founder of Root 2 Fruit said its organization is sowing seeds of greatness and preventing violence in Chicago's Austin community.

"There should have been an outrage behind this baby's death," said Root 2 Fruit Youth Foundation Founder Aisha Oliver.

Outrage for the murder of five-year-old Reign Ware who was shot and killed on the near West Side while sitting in a car in the early hours on Sunday.

"There should have been more people wanting to tote the front lines behind this five-year-old girl losing her life and she had nothing to do with anything that was associated with this," Oliver said. 

She is the founder of Root 2 Fruit, a non-profit organization with a vision of providing a safety net for kids outside their school and home.

It's been around since 2009.

"I grew up with a village in LeClair Courts and I felt like Austin needed that village. So I wanted to be that or at least start that for the kids in the Austin community," Oliver said.

The organization's initiative is called Austin Safety Action Plan or ASAP, which is a youth designed strategy that addresses community violence and reactivation.

It started in 2020 after three-year-old Mekhi James was shot and killed while riding in a car with his stepfather in Austin.

"Root 2 Fruit's safe zone has been in the Austin community for four years. It has four locations within a mile radius: Austin Public Library, St. Martin's Church, Harambee Garden and right here at Austin Town Hall, which is a neutral zone surrounded by gang territory," Oliver said.

She said in the safe zone from 2020 to 2023 there have been no homicides, 911 calls have gone down, but there have been more arrests.

"We have been able to decrease violence in that safe zone by 50% over the past three and half, four years," Oliver said. 

"It's not how it used to be back then. It would be a lot of kids right now back then, but now too much violence has been going on. So everybody's scared to come outside. So we're trying to change that," said Lester Bradford of Root 2 Fruit.

Oliver said the community has to reflect what's happening in their neighborhood.

"Some of us know who these people are. You live in the community long enough to identify who these people are and we've gotten so comfortable," Oliver said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.